03/19/2014 03:46 pm ET Updated Mar 19, 2014

Supreme Court Contraception Mandate Cases: Religious Leaders Release Statement Supporting Contraception Access

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On Tuesday, Christian, Jewish, Unitarian Universalist, and Muslim leaders released a joint statement in support of universal access to contraception, calling such access through insurance coverage a "moral good."

Forty-seven religious leaders, including Rev. Geoffrey A. Black of the United Church of Christ, Rev. Dr. Serene Jones of Union Theological Institute, Rabbi Michael Lerner of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, Ani Zonneveld of Muslims for Progressive Values and many others, signed the statement that was published on the Religious Institute's website.

Their full statement reads:

As religious leaders, we support universal access to contraception. We believe that all persons should be free to make personal decisions about their reproductive lives, their health and the health of their families that are informed by their culture, faith tradition, religious beliefs, conscience, and community. We affirm, in accordance with each of our faith traditions, that ensuring equal access to contraceptives through insurance coverage is a moral good. Including contraceptives as a covered service does not require anyone to use it; excluding contraceptive coverage for those who choose to plan and space their families with modern methods of birth control will effectively translate into coercive childbearing for many.

We support social justice. We recognize the dignity and worth of each and every member of our communities—including those uniquely vulnerable to the effects of unequal access to healthcare due to race, class, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or geography.

We support religious freedom. Religious freedom means that each individual has the right to exercise their own beliefs and the right not to have others’ beliefs forced upon them. We believe no employer has the right to deny the women who work for them basic health care. Individuals must have the right to accept or reject the principles of their own faith without legal restrictions.

No single religious voice can speak for all faith traditions on contraception, nor should government take sides on religious differences. We call on our government to respect the beliefs and values of everyone’s faith by safeguarding equal access to contraception for those whose conscience leads them to use it.

The letter's release on Tuesday falls just one week before the U.S. Supreme Court hears two cases in which private companies denied women contraception coverage under their employee insurance plans. The companies' owners want exemption from the Affordable Care Act clause that requires employers to include contraception in insurance coverage.

Reuters reports:

The court, which hears oral argument in two consolidated cases on March 25, could rule that individuals who own closely held companies, rather than the corporations themselves, can argue their religious rights have been violated. Such a ruling would allow the court to avoid criticism that it favors corporate rights too much...

The justices will weigh whether the companies or their owners have a claim under a 1993 federal law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which ensures the free exercise of religion. Religious institutions are exempt from the regulation.

Before the hearing begins, religious leaders will stage a Faith Rally for Family Planning and Religious Freedom, to "pray and raise faithful voices in support of equitable access to affordable birth control."

The National Coalition of American Nuns (NCAN), a liberal organization with some 2,000 members, has also come forward in support universal contraception access. Their online petition, Stand With the Nuns in Support of Birth Control, has gathered nearly 5,000 signatures.



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